Execution is easy. Ideas are everything.

We’ve been fed this misconception that ideas do not matter and execution is everything. Entrepreneurs, investors, billionaires. They each come and serve some variation of the same dish.The notion that one can have good ideas every day, but when it comes to executing those ideas, that’s where you usually get stuck.

And yes, execution does matter. But it is not everything. Execution is tied to having good ideas; you can’t execute well without good ideas to execute.

I don’t want to take this too far. If someone has 99 stupid ideas and then 1 seemingly good one, obviously this should increase your probability that the seemingly good one is actually flawed in a way you haven’t noticed. If someone has 99 stupid ideas, obviously this should make you less willing to waste time reading their other ideas to see if they are really good. - Scott Alexander

It is quite easy for a billionaire to say that execution is everything, as the billionaire will have the means to swiftly build a team that can bring the idea to life.The billionaire will always hunt for good ideas. And this is why is much easier to say that ideas do not matter and that people should get to work.

But getting to work having a bad idea as a basis will usually lead to failure, which will also feed back into the “execution is everything that matters” notion. This idea, again, is not entirely true and is oftentimes misleading, perpetuating a vicious cycle.

Let’s use an example.

A few years back, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation organized a contest called the Reinvent The Toilet Challenge. Researchers had to come up with innovative approaches - based on fundamental engineering processes - for the safe and sustainable management of human waste.

The challenge was building a toilet that:

Okay, so if I have to follow the “execution is everything” advice… I do have everything I need, right? I have my task list, my list of constraints, and what I can do now is get to work.

But, there’s a catch! The constraints were here long before the contest. No one actually took the initiative and time to put them on paper.

The fact that one now has an incentive and an important figure who is leading the movement, a figure who has the means to take the execution to the next level, is causing people to start facing problems with the idea generation part.

Allow me to reiterate - it is much easier to say that I do not have the power to execute but I do have plenty of ideas.

Now, if you have more teams working on the same problem with solution variations constantly being tested, this is when execution matters. New elements such as context, random events, and luck are constantly being added into the mix.

Here we do indeed have the big problem we need to solve. However, we need good ideas on how to solve the micro-problems and constraints. Good ideas serve as a solid basis for potential success, and then you can add speed of execution into the mix.

This goes not just for geniuses, but for anybody in the idea industry. Coming up with a genuinely original idea is a rare skill, much harder than judging ideas is. Somebody who comes up with one good original idea (plus ninety-nine really stupid cringeworthy takes) is a better use of your reading time than somebody who reliably never gets anything too wrong, but never says anything you find new or surprising. Alyssa Vance calls this positive selection – a single good call rules you in – as opposed to negative selection, where a single bad call rules you out. You should practice positive selection for geniuses and other intellectuals. - Scott Alexander

Good ideas are hard to come by, mainly because they need to pass through a lot of doors. You can’t just have a mind-blowing idea by sitting and looking at the sky all day. To generate good ideas, you need to engage with the world in some capacity. You need to ingest, digest, absorb, listen, and accept criticism. You also need time to think.

So the next time someone starts regurgitating this over-concentrated pop-culture platitude, simply remember that good ideas and solutions to problems are only obvious in hindsight. And that execution is and will always be dependent on having good ideas.

Go fast to stay authentic

This is ultimately a dance between good ideas and speed. Good ideas are tied to creativity, problem-solving, identifying glitches in our world and filling them in, feasibility, sustainability, and impact. Speed is tied to resources, agility, and a clear vision.

There are numerous advantages to prioritizing speed when developing a product. It lowers costs, enables quicker entry into the market, and provides the opportunity to identify any deviations from the intended path before it becomes irreversible.

Last week, it dawned on me that the need for speed goes beyond just getting things done. It shields you from the treacherous realm of second-guessing. Embracing velocity ensures you stay true to your authentic self. Picture this: you’re armed with a wild, off-the-wall, potentially brilliant (or maybe not) strategy. Now, if you dilly-dally, meticulously analyzing and perfecting it, you’ll just end up diluting its essence and washing away all the juiciness.

I remember listening to an interview of Jason Fried– where he extensively discussed Basecamp’s utilization of speed, such as their well-known 6-week cycles. He also shared insights on his writing approach, revealing that he completes each post on Medium in just 15 to 20 minutes, which astounded me.

When you’re sprinting through life, occasionally stumbling is inevitable. However, there’s no point in diluting the truth along the way.

I have witnessed the impact of speed on maintaining authenticity in design sprints. When there is limited time for hesitation, the solutions produced are of higher quality. On a personal level, I have gone through the painful process of indecisiveness, repeatedly redoing tasks, and losing sight of the main objective.

Right now I’m recommitting to speed. If you’re writing, there are lots of reasons to go fast. You won’t lose your nerve. You won’t lose your inspiration. You won’t edit yourself to death.


I’ll imitate Jason and go fast to stay authentic with my blog posts… I have a hundred ideas I don’t have time to write properly and preciously, but I do have 15 minutes.

Let’s see if this headline is true.

Listen to the interview here* or subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.*